To be successful, you need to have a positive mindset. But how do you keep your spirits up when you are a whole year into a pandemic?
COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we live and work. Every aspect of our lives has been affected by the virus. We have made drastic changes in our day-to-day lives. COVID-19 has been terrible and has shown us how broken our systems are: healthcare, supply chains, education, and governments, globally.
But if we accept the reality for what it is right now and continue fine-tuning our systems to discard what doesn't work and embrace what works in this new reality, we will all see the light even inside this dark tunnel. After all, the most significant breakthroughs are the result of greater problems.
To see the light and create new possibilities and realities, we need to develop and work harder on keeping a positive outlook. We asked 14 TAB Business Owners and Members how they keep their spirits up even when there is bad news all around.
1. Go outdoors, move, meditate.
We're getting closer to finally coming out the other side of the dark COVID-19 tunnel. This was undoubtedly a stressful time for most of us. Still, many of us found solace through some simple, positive activities. Here's our shortlist of positive activities that will boost your morale.
- Spend time outdoors with your favorite activity, be it walking, jogging, or bicycling, camping, fishing, swimming, kayaking, boating, or hiking.
- Make time for some form of exercise
- Spend time with pets —this can help you destress.
- Explore a new hobby or renew an old one.
- Meditate —yoga and meditation are invaluable during stressful times.
Being a business owner can also be very stressful. You may have a current project that is especially stressful or an upcoming meeting you expect to be contentious, or an employee issue that is difficult to deal with. Don't let business stresses beat you down. Fight back and be "positively active."
Now that we all work from home, at least at some level, take advantage by applying a destressing technique just before or after stressful business events or tasks. When working from home, you can spend five minutes with your pet, step outside and get some sunlight, or work on a hobby just before a business meeting you know will be stressful. Try it; you'll be surprised at what a difference it can make.
2. Look inwards.
It only takes a quick google search to be overwhelmed with how much information is available to maintain a positive mindset. Despite this, we all struggle with mental health challenges. After reading numerous books, journals, blog posts, and articles on happiness, the one practice I found useful is that we must look inwards for the answer. The way we maintain a positive mindset during stressful times is as personal as our journeys in discovering the meaning of life. For me, it is about surrounding myself with the right people and turning away those unhealthy for me at any given time.
It is also about taking time out regardless of how busy I am when I need to so I can walk through rainforests hundreds of years old towering above me as that is my form of meditation and resetting perspective.
Despite all the evidence supporting daily journaling, I only write in a gratitude journal when I feel the need for it. I encourage you to work with your TAB coach, be curious about your happiness, and let go of your perceived expectations in a safe space so that you can recall your session the next time you are feeling stressed.
3. Do something today that will help you feel better in the future.
Do something for your future self, like preparing something for tomorrow, today. Iron your outfit for the morning, pack your lunch, block out a 15-minute desk workout, convert a zoom call to a phone call, go to bed 30 minutes earlier. It doesn't have to be big —it just has to be personal. It has to be something that makes you feel good and works for you.
4. Meet with other business owners.
My business leader Advisory Board members frequently talk about how meetings with other business leaders help them stay positive and focused on the right things. They share what's concerning them and get ideas and support. More than anything, they believe, they leave the meetings with a healthy and positive mindset.
They vet their business decisions in these meetings and leave feeling confident about their next steps.
5. Do a negativity detox.
The best way to maintain a positive mindset is to make sure you surround yourself with uplifting and positive thoughts and messages. Create a series of notes or affirmations stuck to your mirror that you recite to yourself when you brush your teeth each morning. Listen to uplifting music before you start your day. If you find specific things or people turn your mood to negative, purge those from your life for a few weeks to see how it makes a difference. It could be social media, watching cable news, or even interactions with certain people in your life. When you limit or remove negativity from your life, positivity has room to flourish.
6. Read positive materials before bedtime.
Read something positive and uplifting for a minimum of 15 minutes before you go to bed. When you sleep, your subconscious processes the days' thoughts and events, especially the last thing your brain took in. Numerous studies have shown that sleep forms new memories out of what we encounter during the day. So, consuming encouraging concepts before going to sleep pushes your brain to process the positive over the negative.
7. Eliminate negative stimulators.
Eliminate negative stimulators like the 24-hour news cycle. Consciously look at the news (print or electronic) only in the evening.
Exercise regularly —try to break a sweat 3-4 times a week.
Get outdoors for some fresh air, no matter how cold or warm it is.
Take up a new creative hobby or learn to play an instrument.
On the weekends or your day off, do an electronic detox — for 24 hours, if possible. In those 24 hours, resist the urge even to check work email. I put my phone away and out of sight and only check it a few times in the 24 hours for calls or texts from friends. I usually do this Friday evening until Saturday evening. I then check and deal with business items I need to address on Sunday.
8. Take baby steps to develop a positive mindset.
Maintaining a positive mindset is much like achieving any challenging goal. When the going gets tough, it can sometimes feel impossible to get back to that positive mindset. One approach is to see how you want to feel and what you want to experience. Then look at the incremental steps you can take to get closer to that state. Moving from a feeling of hopelessness to one of inspiration can be too big a jump sometimes. Break it down into digestible, attainable changes. Eventually, you will find yourself looking optimistically at that what is ahead.
9. What you plant now will grow.
"Soil does not care what you plant in it; whatever you put there will grow. Whether it is seeds of a thornbush, weeds, or flowers, the soil will let it grow if you water it. The same is true of your mind."
We often hear people say that we should focus on positive things, but this quote from a recent conversation gave me a new perspective. Your mind does not care what you put in it; it will let it grow. The same person also said that, as a business owner, he could decide which clients he allows in his door.
The power of maintaining a positive mindset is, therefore, quite simple: Plant the right seeds.
10. Make a plan.
It sounds counter-intuitive that there is one way for business leaders to maintain a positive mindset. I could say TAB Membership can be most beneficial as you get peer-to-peer support.
Whatever you decide to do, you need to focus.
There is no shortage of neurolinguistic programming methods (as taught by Tony Robbins) where you use words to attract positive feelings and erase stress. This methodology is useful, but I want to pivot to a business mindset.
In business, we set ourselves goals and plans. We strategize. We assess our company from all angles. Then we formulate a plan. No one said it would be flawless or that the world would cooperate.
If you have been following us at The Alternative Board, you know we have been pressing for a 2021 plan since October last year. Hopefully, you spent the time and effort on your plan. We stressed a well-thought-out plan using the assessment tools, like the TAB Business Builder's Blueprint or SWOT analysis, or, nowadays, a TOWS analysis.
When we document and own our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, our plan's focus brings our mindset back to our optimistic plan for the year.
You go into the new year mindful that stress will come along. You know challenges are inevitable, but you are prepared to address a bumpy road. Focus on your plans and center your actions productively to resolve the stress.
The plan's power offers you the comfort to deal with your stress positively, which then permeates throughout your organization.
Don't have a plan? Contact me to help you create a powerful tool to maintain a positive mindset for you and your team.
Want additional insight? Read 5 Ways Business Owners and CEOs Prepare to Seize Opportunities now to learn more
11. Fake it until you can make it.
I know we hear all about authentic leadership, being genuine and connecting with others personally, and showing real concern. However, if you feel low and transmit it to your staff, the downward spiral will continue.
In particular, many business owners hate being locked down month after month. However, I have seen the business owners who dusted themselves down and brought out a fighting spirit to their zoom calls, emphasized all the positive things in their lives, their businesses, their preparedness for the future, what they were achieving that they never thought they could.
They recognized meaningful behaviors and challenged others to tell their stories. After a while of faking it, it became real, and then they were of the mindset to connect individually. A new leader cannot come to a job and say, "I know very little about this business, so actually, I need your help." In doing so, they will lose credibility. So they have to fake it until they make it. They have to push themselves outside their comfort zone and grow. It is similar to what should happen in a pandemic; you have to pretend you know what you are doing until you can make it.
12. Remind yourself of how you surmounted obstacles in the past.
To maintain a positive mindset, think back on the most significant business challenges you ever faced. Then, remember how happy you were when you implemented your best ideas for successful outcomes. Recounting how you surmounted a few of these dire situations will change your mood from despair to a can-do-anything outlook. Every problem has a solution. A confident, clear mind is what it takes to find these solutions.
13. Know how your brain works.
"Most people are a function of the social mirror, scripted by the opinions, the perceptions, the paradigms of the people around them." -Stephen R. Covey.
We tend to spend time on the things we perceive to be important, but our perceptions are not reflective of reality, and this causes stress.
"The single most powerful investment we can ever make in life is an investment in ourselves, in the only instrument we have with which to deal with life. We are the instruments of our performance, and to be effective, we need to recognize the importance of taking time regularly to sharpen the saw." -Stephen R. Covey.
But how do we sharpen our saw when stress is about (perceived) limited time?
The first step is to recognize and accept that you are the instrument of your performance. This is not easy. Anwar Sadat wrote: "He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality, and will never, therefore, make any progress."
Brace Barton wrote: "Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things."
So start small. Give yourself permission to spend 30 minutes on yourself every day, getting to know your brain better.
Watch this video to see how to get started.
14. Train your mind to stay positive.
Staying positive is as much behavior as anything else. Here's what you can do to train your mind to stay positive.
Journal – By journaling, I mean write, not type. Get the nicest journal you can find. If you are journaling first thing in the morning, write about what the day ahead will resemble. Include the good things that will happen and all the things you will do —address personal and business activities. Write down what you intend for your day to be like and, of course, make it feel good. If you are journaling at the end of the day, write about what tomorrow will look like —again, keep it positive, productive, and fun.
This next one is easy and feels good —compliment at least three people every day (and be genuine). It can be a colleague, co-worker, family member, or a stranger you walk by on the street. It doesn't take much to say something nice.
And here is a fun one that will make you laugh. Take two, and eventually three, pairs of socks. Make sure they are rolled up into a "ball," so to speak. Then, practice juggling. It is fun, ridiculous (unless, of course, you know how to juggle), it uses both sides of your brain, and it is something simple you can take a five-minute break to do. Why socks? Well, they don't roll away like a tennis ball when they drop. Plus, you don't have to buy anything.